All eyes on Colangelo

The success of Bryan Colangelo's offseason makeover will largely hinge on the ability of Andrea...

The success of Bryan Colangelo's offseason makeover will largely hinge on the ability of Andrea Bargnani to continue developing. (QMI Agency/Mark O'Neill)

CHRIS TOMAN, Sports Network

, Last Updated: 4:47 PM ET

TORONTO -- With a hot summer in full swing, it's no surprise that Bryan Colangelo has been busy working up a sweat.

After sending Chris Bosh to the Miami Heat in a sign-and-trade deal that netted the Toronto Raptors two first round draft picks and a trade exception, Colangelo elected against rebuilding with the hopes of remaining competitive this upcoming season.

The 2010 season is expected to be challenging for a Raptors team that has failed to make the postseason two years running and will be without the services of Bosh, its franchise-leading scorer and five-time all-star, for the first time in seven years.

However, Colangelo is still focused on the now, as his competitive nature thrives on getting back to the playoffs, rather than rebuilding.

The trade exception is worth an approximate $14.5 million and could prove to be the most important asset the Raptors possess moving forward. The Raptors president and GM continued to reshape his roster following Bosh's departure to South Beach, and even managed to find a suitor in the Phoenix Suns for the disgruntled Hedo Turkoglu; a trade that was originally supposed to be part of a three-way deal involving the Charlotte Bobcats.

In return, the Raptors received combo-guard Leandro Barbosa and power forward Dwayne Jones from Phoenix. Colangelo has familiarity with Barbosa dating back to his days as general manager of Phoenix, as he acquired the seven-year veteran in a 2003 draft day deal with the San Antonio Spurs.

Barbosa averaged 9.5 points per games with the Suns last season but missed 37 games due to a nagging wrist injury that required surgery in January. Since winning the Sixth Man of the Year award in 2007, Barbosa's numbers have slipped but he does add some much-needed quickness to Toronto, as well as another player who can slash and handle the ball. The biggest gain in this deal for the Raptors, however, is being able to wipe their hands clean of Turkoglu's long-term and albatross-like contract.

Turkoglu had a disappointing year with the Raptors after signing a five-year, $53 million deal with the club last summer, averaging 11.3 points per game for his lowest total since the 2003-2004 season. He then voiced his displeasure about Toronto to a Turkish media outlet earlier in the offseason, vowing that he no longer wished to be a member of the organization. The 31-year-old forward would later retract the statements, but the damage left Colangelo with no choice but to test the market for the 10-year veteran.

Colangelo will need to stay active, as he is now temporarily 'stuck' with Jose Calderon and Reggie Evans, after a deal for Tyson Chandler fell apart, and has the trade exception from the Heat he can use in a future deal.

Until the Raptors shore up their frontcourt, which was clearly a point of interest for Colangelo by targeting Diaw and Chandler, the club will be working in a young mix of forwards to the rotation, including Ed Davis, the Raptors 2010 first-round draft pick. Linas Kleiza could also become a rotation player for the Raptors after the team signed him to an offer sheet last week following a stint in Greece.

The Denver Nuggets, who retain Kleiza's rights, aren't expected to match the offer after using their mid-level exception to acquire Al Harrington, clearing the way for the Raptors to land the 24-year-old European. Kleiza spent the first four years of his career with the Nuggets, averaging a career-best 11.1 points-per game in the 2007-2008 season.

The success of Colangelo's offseason makeover will largely hinge on the ability of Andrea Bargnani to continue developing. The path is now set for Bargnani to become the next franchise player of this Raptors squad, and it's his upside that makes him such an intriguing option.

Colangelo certainly sees it, as he inked the Italian to a 5-year, $50 million contract last summer. He's the most gifted offensive player on the team, and can score from the inside and out.

Much of the criticism directed at Bargnani ensued following his disappointing sophomore season, which carried over to the first half of his third year in the league. Since then, Bargnani has proved to be a formidable sidekick to former Raptor Bosh on the offensive end, as the two were able to extend defenses with their exceptionally strong shooting.

Bargnani averaged career-highs with 17.4 points-per-game, 6.2 rebounds and 1.4 blocks, also leading the team in three-pointers made with 121.

The firing of Sam Mitchell and hiring of Jay Triano in 2008 has had positive impact on Bargnani's production. Mitchell was quick to remove Bargnani for defensive lapses and bury him on the bench for long stretches during his time as head coach in Toronto, but Triano elected to go another route with the young big man, allowing him on many nights to fight through defensive blunders, while rewarding him for his strong play offensively.

Patience proved to be positive for the Raptors in certain respects, as the 24- year-old turned into a solid one-on-one defender in the post last season, where his career-best mark of 1.4 blocks per game was good for 11th best among Eastern Conference players.

The Raptors have a young nucleus centered around Bargnani and the improvements are not only going to have to come from offseason acquisitions but also from within, where DeMar DeRozan will be one of those players Triano looks upon to elevate his game.

Bargnani is Colangelo's chosen one, the clear cut 'guy' on this team, who may have a solid enough supporting cast to flourish in this new found role. The fans may be reluctant passing the 'franchise' tag to Bargnani but as he enters his fifth season and first without Bosh, the timing couldn't be better.

Who knows, maybe Colangelo is on to something and the Raptors will actually produce a franchise player that can help the team win something in the future.

The time is now for Bargnani to prove he's not a bust after being drafted No. 1 overall in 2006.

Whether he is ready or not, the success of this club is now resting on his shoulders.


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